Trust Us

I wasn’t really sure what Blog Post Number 6 was supposed to be about. I do know it was ‘sposed to be about the mission statement stuff that Prof. Humphrey showed us this past week. SO, i will endeavor to offer my opinion on the “ABOUT” page in the words to follow.

THE VISION

We envision a world in which every mother, father, son, and daughter have the opportunity to realize their potential through hard work and lead a fulfilling life together.

I am satisfied with this. If i were a philanthropic donor, I would read this and think “yes, this effectively covers all human beings, encourages hard work, and encourages community values. This is something I can stand behind.” This is what we want. We’re not talking about changing the world, we’re talking about opening doors that result in a changed world. This is good stuff, well thought out.

THE BELIEF

Sustainable solutions to poverty require the endogenous emergence of effective, legitimate, and resilient community-wide institutions that foster productive cooperation among its members.

This takes a while to sink in, as of the beginning of this sentence i’m still not sure what to make of it. I had to look up what Endogenous meant–from within was the jist of it. If I were a philanthropic donor, i would not like the fact that this is not very clear. The Belief is just as important sa the Vision, because the belief builds upon the vision by stating the philosophy that will guide our operations. So im going to break this down just to make sure i understand what its saying.

“Sustainable solutions to poverty” means, in other words, Methods of reducing the number of poor people in such a way that requires very little input once its begun.

“Requires the endogenous emergence of [adjectives] institutions” means that aforementioned methods need to come from institutions created by the people who need it most.

“that foster […] cooperation among its members.” This is where i think this statement is utilizing circular logic. The aforementioned institution, created by the people who need it most, need to use that institution to instill cooperation. they need to cooperate in creating an institution that creates cooperation.

I feel like, with all those words, we could’ve just said “we believe in helping people help themselves”. thats alot less confusing, waaaay more concise, and leaves no questions about what it is we’re actually talking about. So i would say this needs to be simplified.

THE MISSION

Empower our clients with the assets and capabilities to participate in, influence and hold accountable the institutions that structure their lives, their children’s lives, and their communities.

This is the one i got hung up on in class, because of the phrase “hold accountable”. maybe its the accountant in me.

I’m going to overly simplify this for ease of use.

“Give our clients the ability to [participate in, influence and hold accountable] Their Governments.”

I know this is a simplification, but i’m not sure what other institution than the government provides structure on all the levels described. But I also feel like the more specific thing is we’re talking about economic powers that be, which is encapsulated SOMEWHAT in saying “assets & capabilities” but theres no reference to economic institutions. just institutions in general, that could be anything. and, when we’re talking about government-institutions, participating & influence are the same thing, and “hold accountable” is similar to the other two but has a different connotation in my opinion. I feel like hold accountable means that if something went wrong, they want to throw the fools out–it has a sense of justice too it. And since we’re saying the same basic thing with “participate” and “influence”, we could remove “hold accountable” and include the word “meaningful” somewhere else and it would have the same result.

So from the perspective of a philanthropic donor, i would be cautious when seeing a Mission Statement like this that is as unspecific as this one is. Brevity and Clarity are the benchmarks i’m using here.

THE METHOD

Expand economic opportunities for and improve the everyday living conditions of our clients through the provision of financial, social, and educational support. To do this, we develop long-lasting relationships founded upon mutual respect and open communication with our clients.

This is fairly clear, but again doesn’t say anything specific. I feel like this, of all places, should be where we say exactly what we do. Financial? why not say Micro-loans? Educational? Why not say business-seminars? i’m not sure what social support we have, but i suppose that would be CCC. but i’m not sure.

The benchmark, in my mind, for the Method is specificity. Its good otherwise, but i feel like, if i were a Philanthropic donor, i would not like the fact that my donations are being used to provide financial support. what kind of financial support? Is La Ceiba throwing money away? We are absolutely not, but you wouldn’t know it from our Method statement.

THE MOTIVATION

Hope for a better tomorrow, dreams of your children’s future, and optimism that if you work hard and keep working hard that success can be yours are things that poverty can steal from those in its grasp. When it does, we want to steal it back.

While personally, i dislike the implication that poverty is a separate entity that surprises and oppresses unsuspecting and otherwise productive citizens. But i think if we were to say it any other way, it would dilute the message so i’m going to give this a thumbs up simply because i feel it serves its purpose.

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TO SUMMARIZE

Our Mission janx is all around good and well written, but where it gets to the parts that talk about what exactly we do, thats where some of it gets lost in translation. i tried to look at this from the perspective of a philanthropic donor, because i’m assuming thats who our audience is, and the non-specific parts would worry me. I would have a lot of questions before i made up my mind that La Ceiba is going to get the most impact per dollar donated. which, i just realized, is something i could probably show in some spreadsheets….

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PS- If you can’t find how to make a post like i couldn’t before shawn told me how, go to umwblogs and log in, go to your dashboard, and select this blog, and then add a new post. OR, i think going to [laceibamfi dot org slash wp-admin] should work too–it should at least prompt you to log in, and you can make a post from there.

6 Responses to “Trust Us

  • sgillis
    7 years ago

    All I would say Russell, is that some of these things are better left vague, if only because we want them to be easily and quickly read by interested donors/participants. If a reader has additional questions, some of the other tabs, such as our performance tab, have more information (or will once its posted) on our exact methods.

    Also: “impact per dollar donated” is something we should definitely muster, I know many organization have the “86 cents of every dollar goes directly to our cause,” we should be able to muster something similar, albeit more impressive due to our low operating costs.

    • russellscott
      7 years ago

      thats ultimately a question we’ll have to answer–what are these statements for? Personally, I think these statements should be synopses of La Ceiba–someone should read these and get a pretty good idea of La Ceiba, rather than La Ceiba’s rhetoric. The other option is that they SHOULD be rhetoric/vague, so that “philanthropic donors” become intrigued to find out more.

      The reason i prefer the former to the latter is because the more information we give, beyond our synopsis, only enhances prospective donors willingness to donate. “Ah, you do microfinance. Let me see more info about that. OH, you do THIS kind of microfinance, i like how its set up, i’ll give you a bajillion rubles.”

      With the latter, we’re not telling them everything, we’re making them do the work. “Oh, you do financial support? Whats that even mean? Is that performance or impact? Whhhaaaa????”

      does that make sense? from the perspective of the Donor, we want them to do as little work as possible to get the most information as possible. any new information enhances their willingness to donate, because it builds on the framework in our missionvissionbeliefvalue statement. rather than telling them loosely what we do, and then making them find out specifics.

      • russellscott
        7 years ago

        basically, it boils down to the fact that we don’t mention micro-loans ONCE in the entire spiel. And i feel thats kind of a big part of why La Ceiba exists.

  • econrad
    7 years ago

    Good discussion here. I’d have to agree with Russell that at least one of the statements on the ‘About Me’ should be somewhat specific. It would be more effective and clear to mention the type of “financial support” that we offer.

  • I’d just like to clarify what is meant by “institutions”: they have a very specific meaning in this context. Douglass North says “Institutions are the rules of the game in a society or, more formally, are the humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction.” (North 1990). While they’re a really complex subject (the focus of Dr. Humphrey’s Comparative Economics class), they do include more than the government. Yes, institutions could be anything, but that’s the crucial point– our lives are not completely shaped by the government, as I’m sure you’ll find in your daily life. So I don’t think this should be reduced to just the government, but your confusion raises an important issue– donors probably don’t have the background in New Institutional Economics that would allow them to grasp all the ramifications of the word “institutions”, so maybe we need to find a way to clarify, to still encompass all the complexity while being more accessible.

  • I would like to add that some vagueness is a good thing. It allows for the organization to grow and adapt to changing situations. If our statements are too narrow, then they will limit our actions. For instance, if we say that we give out micro-loans to women, then we are limiting our customers to women. This statement applies now, but if we decide later to give out loans to men, then we are restricted by what we said in the past.

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